Under A Black Umbrella
Perhaps to get back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to divert attention from the ceaseless attack on her government about the chit fund scandal and the bomb blast case, West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee decided to let her MPs loose on the BJP government in Parliament. Looking for a subject to attack with was not difficult find. But on top of the list was the black money issue. Modi had promised the people of India that if voted to power his government would not just identify and take action against all those who cheated the government out of taxes and made black money but that the money would be brought back to the country from wherever it had travelled. While the initial step of identifying some names have begun, the money has not yet been brought back but then the government is only about six months old. Whatever the case may be, suddenly it appeared on the Trinamool Congress’s agenda and Mamata had her 34 MPs march to the pit of the Parliament, carrying black umbrellas and shouting slogans. The move backfired when the BJP government decided to address the issue. But Mamata’s MPs kept on shouting (clearly they did not have a Plan B) forcing the Speaker to dismiss them but not before reprimanding them with: “Clearly you don’t want a discussion. You just want to make noise.”
On The Road, Again
Not content with hitting back with black umbrellas (I wonder who paid for all those black umbrellas— the MPs themselves or the tax payer?) the Trinamool Congress is also planning to take out a rally this week to protest what Mamata has termed a central government “vendetta”. Hoping against hopes for a similar turnout as she had witnessed when large numbers of people joined her for the march against atrocities in Nandigram when the CPIM was in power, insiders however reveal that she is bracing for any eventuality. Many civil society members known as Bidyajans, who put their weights behind her during her protests while in the opposition, are now not sure what to do. While some have openly fallen out with Mamata, like Kabir Suman, former TMC MP and Aparna Sen, others who have allegedly received favour of various kinds of the current state government are finding it difficult to say no but are unable to do so. But most don’t want to associate themselves with the sticky situation of walking for a “cause” like this— essentially protesting the crackdown on chit fund tainted TMC leaders. Some cited prior professional engagements to wriggle out of it. But Mamata has reportedly instructed Bratya Basu, a former firebrand thespian during the CPIM reign who has subsequently mellowed after being inducted into TMC, becoming an MLA and a minister, to use his connections in the theatre world to rope in actors and actresses for her roadshow. Of course some of the Bidyajans are also facing jail terms and interrogation in the chit fund scam, like artist Suvaprasanna who has been interrogated by CBI several times in connection with selling a channel to Sudipto Sen, arrested chief of a chit fund company.
The Colours Of Politics
A sculpture by artist Shanu Lahiri has been struck down and removed from an intersection near Calcutta’s Park Circus and Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. The artwork which was installed during the CPIM government is now going to be replaced by a globe, according to sources. The instruction reportedly came from urban development minister Firhad Hakim. Not surprisingly, the artist community is shocked and have raised a huge uproar against the action of the minister. But then everything in Bengal is determined by political colour. From art to sport to literature, artists are constantly subjected to political pressure and unfortunately find themselves having to take sides.
Going Down In Smoke
The Central government may soon ban the sale of loose cigarettes. This piece of news has upset a large numbers of Calcuttans who never buy an entire pack at one go. Some shop owners claim that most of their sales are to people who ask for one or two cigarettes at the most and t hey rarely sells a whole pack. “Ami pray dosh bochor byabshay achi…taar moddhey bodh hoy guney guney dosh taro kom gota maal bikri korechi…khucro tar opor vorsha korey business challachi. ‘Standard’ lok chara keo got packet kenena. Ki je hobey?”. (I’ve been in this business for the past ten years and possibly sold a total of ten packets— if not less. I mostly sell loose sticks. Only ‘standard’ (he means those with pedigree) people buy whole packs. I’m completely dependent on customers who buy one or two sticks at a time.” A rickshaw puller sums up the Calcutta aam aadmi reaction when you ask him if he’ll consider buying a whole pack. “Matha kharap?” He says, “Poisha ke debey?” (Are you crazy? Who’ll give the money for it?”)
The Writing On The Wall
A graffiti from the state elections of 2011 which still hasn’t been wiped out:
“Dori dhorey maro taan…
CPM hobey khaan khan"
[Pull the rope, tighten the noose,
CPM will break, into many pieces]